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Predicting species and community responses to global change using structured expert judgement: An Australian mountain ecosystems case study

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journal contribution
posted on 27.08.2021, 06:43 authored by JS Camac, KDL Umbers, John MorganJohn Morgan, SR Geange, A Hanea, RA Slatyer, KL McDougall, SE Venn, PA Vesk, AA Hoffmann, AB Nicotra
Conservation managers are under increasing pressure to make decisions about the allocation of finite resources to protect biodiversity under a changing climate. However, the impacts of climate and global change drivers on species are outpacing our capacity to collect the empirical data necessary to inform these decisions. This is particularly the case in the Australian Alps which have already undergone recent changes in climate and experienced more frequent large-scale bushfires. In lieu of empirical data, we use a structured expert elicitation method (the IDEA protocol) to estimate the change in abundance and distribution of nine vegetation groups and 89 Australian alpine and subalpine species by the year 2050. Experts predicted that most alpine vegetation communities would decline in extent by 2050; only woodlands and heathlands are predicted to increase in extent. Predicted species-level responses for alpine plants and animals were highly variable and uncertain. In general, alpine plants spanned the range of possible responses, with some expected to increase, decrease or not change in cover. By contrast, almost all animal species are predicted to decline or not change in abundance or elevation range; more species with water-centric life-cycles are expected to decline in abundance than other species. While long-term ecological data will always be the gold standard for informing the future of biodiversity, the method and outcomes outlined here provide a pragmatic and coherent basis upon which to start informing conservation policy and management in the face of rapid change and a paucity of data.


Centre of Excellence for Biosecurity Risk Analysis National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility; Centre for Biodiversity Analysis, ANU; Department of Industry Conference Support Program


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Global Change Biology











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